(Re)constructing Early Recordings: a guide for historically-informed performance

Inja Stanovic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


In recent years, early recordings have become a primary source of musical research in multiple music disciplines. Such recordings, typically dating from the late 1800s through to the early 1900s, employed mechanical sound-reproduction technologies to capture performances by many of the leading figures of the time. As such, they offer valuable insights into the aesthetic tendencies and preoccupations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century musicians, capturing and preserving performance styles, traditions and musical approaches of an age that has long-since passed. Unfortunately, very little research has been done into the production of such recordings and, as a result, we do not know to which extent musicians needed to adapt or change aspects of their performances when recording mechanically. This lack of knowledge has implications for any research that employs early recordings as a primary source within contemporary musical research. In response, this article introduces a Leverhulme-funded research project “(Re)constructing Early Recordings: a guide for historically-informed performance”. The first year of this project focuses on recordings on wax cylinders made by Julius Block, a music enthusiast and recording pioneer. Between 1889 and 1927, Block recorded some of the most eminent musicians and artists of his time, including Anton Arensky, Paul Pabst, Sergei Taneyev, Leo Conus, Jules Conus, and Anna Yesipova, among others. This article presents a case study based on the reconstruction and simulation of Block’s mechanical recording processes to capture performances using wax cylinders. Digital technologies were also used for the purpose of comparative analysis. Taken as a whole, the article serves to promote the use of early recordings, and proposes a method for their future analysis and use.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of research hands on piano
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Conference on Music Performance
EditorsAlfonso Benetti, Francisco Monteiro, Jorge Salgado Correia
PublisherUA Editora
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9789727895977
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019
Event'Hands On' PIANO - University of Aviero, Aveiro, Portugal
Duration: 24 Jan 201827 Jan 2018
http://artisticresearch.web.ua.pt/index.php/en/research-hands-on-piano-2/ (Link to Event Information)


Conference'Hands On' PIANO
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